Players In The Community  

US Army  

Tebow making volunteer work cool among young players

  • By Lisa Altobelli Special to NFL.com
More Columns >
Tim Tebow Foundation
Tim Tebow compares muscles this summer with one of the children from his Dreams Come True program.

Every NFL team features many players who do great things in their communities. Over the past two weeks, NFL.com has featured one player from each team and highlighted their efforts. In this installment: the AFC West:

Tim Tebow, Broncos

You might like him. You might not. But even if you don't bleed for No. 15, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that Tim Tebow is a really decent person.

Even when Broncos president John Elway was on the fence about whether he was the right QB to lead the team, he couldn't dispute the fact that he's a stand-up human being, even going as far to say, "If there was a kid I'd want to marry my daughter, it would be Tim Tebow."

Everyone's aware of Tebow's religious views and that he praises God quite a bit, but what actually qualifies him for such overwhelming good-guy status?

Players in the community
All 32 NFL team web sites do a good job detailing their players' great work in their communities. NFL.com took time during this holiday season to spotlight one player from each team:

NFC North: Tillman's heart of gold
AFC North: Cleveland's go-to guy
NFC South: Grades over gridiron
AFC South: Brackett to the rescue
NFC East: Asomugha's college tour
AFC East: Wilson preaches hard work
NFC West: Bowling for dollars
AFC West: Tebow Time off the field

Turns out, a lot.

When NCAA rules prevented him from starting his own foundation while at Florida, he circumvented them by creating a collaborative effort with other UF students called First and 15. One of his initial orders of business was to assist those in need in his birth country, the Philippines (well, there goes Tebow for president), where his parents have been active missionaries since 1985.

He raised funds for his father's orphanage there called Uncle Dick's Home, and upon graduation was able to start his own Tim Tebow Foundation and expand his efforts.

He recently partnered with CURE to build a 30-bed children's hospital in Mindanao, a particularly poverty-stricken island in the western Pacific country.

"CURE works in the poorest countries around the world to bring healing to children in desperate need," said Tebow in his effort to raise funds for the hospital. "They give kids the life changing surgeries they need and share the healing power of the gospel with them and that's what makes our partnership such a great fit. "

Another facet of his foundation is the Dreams Come True program that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. And their main wish of course? To meet the man himself, to which he carves out as much time wherever he can (even after a tough loss to the Patriots) to hold up his end of the bargain.

"I'm always humbled and honored that there are children whose wish is to spend time with me," said Tebow. "I always walk away confident that I am the one who was blessed to be around such strong and courageous children."

Tebow's Gators coach Urban Meyer praised his efforts by saying, "Tim has made community service and commitment to serving others a cool thing among his peers. He has changed the way kids his age look at helping others. He has made it OK to volunteer and give back."

That said, if there was ever a player to have disciples, we could all do a lot worse than Tebow and his influence.

Jammer Family Foundation / Special to NFL.com
Quentin Jammer and his wife Alicia (pictured with their three sons) have focused on providing for foster teens at an innovative school in San Diego County.

Quentin Jammer, Chargers

Quentin Jammer knows from experience that sometimes it takes just one person to impact your life and change its course. For him, that person was Texas coach Mack Brown when things were trending towards haywire for him.

"In college I was a bad kid; not going to class and fighting all the time," said Jammer. "Mack Brown heard enough about it so he pulled me aside and brought my mom in and said you can either go home and sit on the corner and sell drugs and make a living that way, or you can go to the NFL and make millions of dollars on your talent.

"It changed my life because it showed me that there are people that don't really have to care about you, but do anyway. I can honestly say that coach Brown had an integral part in how my life turned out, and it made me realize that you just never know who you can impact."

On a quest to have that same influence on others, Jammer started the Jammer Family Foundation in 2007 with his high school sweetheart wife, Alicia, but was frustrated with the amount of red tape it took to insert himselves into a cause to make a real impact. Then his teammate Shaun Phillips brought the couple to visit The San Pasqual Academy in Escondido, Calif., which is the first school in the country to provide a residential campus for foster kids.

"We honestly expected the worst going into it because a lot of these kids have come from really bad experiences and didn't know if they would be rude or how they would act towards us," said Jammer. "But I was totally surprised by how engaging and well mannered they were and vowed to spend as much time as possible there after that day."

San Pasqual, which opened in 2001, currently enrolls 150 foster kids from the ages of 14-18 who have been placed under protective custody of the San Diego court system for various reasons. According to the Academy, "they are victims of child abuse and neglect and have been unable to reunify with their families, live with a relative or find a permanent home through adoption."

Because they have been shuffled from place to place most of their lives, a high percentage of them have fallen behind in school by the time they arrive there, and the mission of San Pasqual is to stop the cycle of abuse in order to help them become productive adults.

Jammer has done his part by providing scholarships, mentoring programs, twenty tickets to every Chargers home game and even fundraised to build them a football field since they didn't have one (Philip Rivers kicked in the last amount of the funds they were short), but the biggest thing Jammer has done for kids is, well, just be there.

"I go there a lot and just walk around campus and they'll come up to me and I'll talk to them about whatever it is they want to talk about," said Jammer. "It could just be about their day or something bigger, but everyone has my phone number so they can call me anytime about anything even when I'm not around."

Wait. What? They all have your digits?

"Sure," said Jammer. "I give it out to anyone who asks and quite a few have asked. You could be talking to the next president or someone who just needs some advice, but you can be the one that changes someone's life and turns things around for them like Coach Brown did for me."

Eric Berry Foundation / Special to NFL.com
Eric Berry visits the local park outside of Atlanta that he has helped restore through his foundation.

Eric Berry, Chiefs

Eric Berry came in blazing last year making the Pro Bowl in his first season, which is apropos considering the beloved youth team he played for growing up in Georgia was called the Fairburn Flames.

He has such loyalty to the Flames that he even considered wearing their t-shirt on stage when he was selected fifth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft (for the record, he was advised against it and went with the traditional suit and tie).

But with the Flames still close to his heart, one of Berry's first initiatives after signing his Kansas City contract was to establish the Eric Berry Foundation and return home to the Fairburn field just south of Atlanta to restore it.

The field itself and the surrounding 50-acres called Clarence Duncan Park, was in a sad state before he arrived, with hip-height weeds overrunning the grounds and the playground and pool in shambles.

"This is where it all started, this is where we learned to play football and this is where we have our best memories," Berry told the local news on "Eric Berry Day" in July. "So of course you're going to want to come back to your hometown and reinvest in it, because you want to see kids succeed and be in the same situation that you're in."

A lot of those fond memories had to do with the fact that it was the one place where he was able to spend quality time with his father. James Berry, who also played for Tennessee like Eric, worked two jobs to keep the family afloat, but managed time in between his day and night shifts to coach the Flames in the evenings.

So with his foundation's funding and his connections with AstroTurf, a new state of the art field is being constructed sans any possibility of weeds, followed by a three-phase reconstruction project to restore the rest of the park.

While he's been rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered in the first game this season, he's still involved in community efforts, serving as the spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City, and hopes to refurbish more parks through his mission "to create places where kids can just be kids."

Oakland Raiders
Rock Cartwright gets ready for some flag football action at Oakland's Garfield School during the 13th annual Hometown Huddle event.

Rock Cartwright, Raiders

When Rock Cartwright received the Commitment to Excellence Award from his teammates this season, he turned around and donated the proceeds right back within the locker room to Sam Williams and his Tackling the Odds Foundation.

The foundation, whose aim is to enrich the lives of underprivileged youth through education, self-confidence and unwavering faith in their future, is dedicated to the memory of former player Marquis Cooper who drowned off the coast of Clearwater, Fla., in 2009 along with two other men after their boat capsized.

The quote used for Tackling the Odds is from Frederick Douglass: "It is easier to build strong children than to rebuild broken men."

Cartwright has been a constant presence in the community, working with children and young adults under that credo. This year he has spoken to 300 high schoolers about his own struggles as a student during a Tobacco and Drug Free Day, and participated in the NFL's PLAY 60 event to prevent childhood obesity.

He also appeared at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland for their Hometown Huddle in conjunction with the United Way to promote active and healthy living, and got the kids out and running for some flag football.

“This was a great event,” said Cartwright. “United Way did an excellent job with putting it together along with the school. I had a great time. The kids were a lot of fun. We just enjoyed ourselves. It was good to come out and do some great community work.”

According to Garfield's Managing Director Jamie Lopez, the biggest asset of Cartwright's appearance is that it sends a message to the students that people care.

"The whole thing around healthy eating and active living is something we’re definitely pushing as a school," said Lopez. "So if we get some high profile players saying the same thing, it really drives that message home for them."

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15